You're essentially an employee and I like you having to depend on me
You're kind of my protÃ©gÃ© and one day you'll say you learned all you know from me
I know you depend on me like a young thing would to a guardian
I know you sexualize me like a young thing would and I think I like it
-- "Hands Clean," Alanis Morissette
Roy woke sometime before dawn and found Ed awake, one of Roy's flamecloth gloves on his left hand, a contemplative look on his face. He snapped his fingers, and the tiny spark that obliged him died before reaching the cupped metal palm of his automail.
"You can't snap right handed?" Roy asked, thinking it pointless now to draw any lines of territory, even on his techniques.
"No," Ed said, not surprised that Roy was awake, not turning. This time the spark was a little brighter. "Joints don't quite work that way, and the metal doesn't have the right kind of friction."
Roy watched Ed attempting his own signature technique, and felt rather like a man watching his wife kiss a stranger. "Are you after my rank, Fullmetal? Or just my job?"
"You can keep them both." Ed said. The spark made it all the way to his hand, and glowed for a second before vanishing. "There's only one thing I want, and you know that." Ed pulled the glove loose with his teeth.
Roy flopped back against the pillow. "Is that why you're doing this?"
Ed smoothed the glove on his thigh, tracing the pattern on the back. "Using you, you mean."
"Of course I mean using me. You honestly didn't think I was gullible enough to belive that you were some sort of hotblooded young man with a crush on a commanding officer?" Roy laughed. "Don't insult me. You're fullmetal for a reason, and not for your automail. Snow wouldn't melt on you."
"Thanks." Ed said, and sounded like he meant it. "I always wanted to be hard." He glanced over his shoulder at Roy, gold eyes thoughtful. "Why shouldn't I use you? You're using me. You always have."
Roy tipped a cigarette loose from the pack, putting the end in his mouth and sliding it free of the package. "Of course I am. In whatever way best suits my needs. You're too useful to just let you stand around idle, and I have plans."
"So do I," Ed said. "So I'm using you right back. And that means finding out what makes you tick." He slipped the glove on again, looking down at it as though his hand belonged to someone else. "If I can use it, I will. If I can't, I don't waste my time."
"I'm glad to see none of us have delusions of romance." Roy patted the table for his matches, not looking, and remembered belatedly that he was out.
"I'm no stranger to equivalent trade," Ed put his metal hand palm to palm against the gloved one, looking at the way they clashed, sleek white fabric and complicated automail joints. "That's all it is. It's what makes things fair."
"Life isn't fair." Roy said, giving up his quest for fire. "Only alchemy is fair. Brutally, predictably, and comfortably fair. It's the very reason men like me become alchemists: we can't bear the heartless favoritism of fate."
Ed lifted his left hand, and as if to prove Roy's point, snapped his fingers. The end of Roy's cigarette burst into a tiny flare of flame, subsiding into a perfect glowing ember.
"Hm." Ed said, as though he had done something as common as flipping on a light switch. "I guess so."
And Roy laughed like most men grieved, remembering his week of failure and seven packs of cigarettes.
Fire could only temper steel. It could never defeat it.
Sign up to rate and review this story